Sunday, January 24, 2016

Snow Dog

Well, as I'm sure you've heard or experienced, the 2016 blizzard certainly didn't disappoint. We ended up with about 34 inches of snow, with lots of drifts that were at least 5 feet tall. It was super windy with whiteout conditions and the wind chill was around 0 degrees, but luckily we never lost power (it did flicker a few times, but that's it). We are fortunate to have a warm house and had nowhere to be. The dachshunds are not so fond of the snow, so they spent the whole day in front of the fireplace and rushed to use the bathroom when we forced them to go outside. Oatmeal loved the snow though. She thought we put the snow there just for her. I got some awesome pictures of Brian and her playing in it (from the open window- unfortunately casts and knee scooters aren't really conducive to playing in the snow!), so enjoy these million pictures while you continue digging out from the blizzard!

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Friday, January 22, 2016

Bring It On

We are expecting a blizzard like those pictures again this weekend! Those pics are actually from 2010 when we got 2 huge snowstorms in like 6 days and ended up with almost 6 feet of snow- I don't have any pictures of that amount though, these are from the first storm. We could actually jump off of my parents second-story deck into the snow, it was so high! We are supposed to get 2-3 feet this weekend with crazy winds. This December was extremely mild in PA and though our temperatures have dropped into the normal and below normal range this month, our snowfall has been lacking. I know lots of people hate snow but I love it and I know that a lot of businesses depend on it around here- ski resorts, snow removal companies, etc.

I am still stuck on the couch for 4 more weeks with this bum foot/ankle. I got a new cast put on on Wednesday and when the doctor said he'd see me in 4 weeks I seriously had to hold back tears- I thought I only had 2 more weeks left. Don't worry, I cried later lol. I know an extra 2 weeks doesn't really seem like that much, but it has only been 4 weeks total since the surgery so 4 more sounds like an eternity. After those 4 weeks are up then I have to go back in the huge walking cast/boot and go to physical therapy for awhile. I'm not really able to go anywhere besides doctors' appointments because I'm supposed to keep my leg elevated- if I sit up it swells almost immediately which really hurts; oh and I can't drive obviously. I don't want to sound like a complainer but these 4 weeks have really been crappy. I'm so lucky to have my awesome husband but I feel let down by some of my friends and family who haven't been there for me at all, plus I'm stuck on the couch all day and it's lonely and boring. Anyways, I hope you have a great weekend and if you are getting winter weather, have fun and stay safe!! 
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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wedding Wednesday: Blooper Edition

Our wedding was awesome, and not to sound cliche, but it was seriously the best day of our lives. But even a wonderful wedding that you planned for 17 months won't go off without a hiccup or two. So I thought I'd share some bloopers, disasters, blunders, debacles, hiccups, or whatever you want to call them, to show that even though some things will happen that are out of your control, you will still remember the day as perfect.

I'll start off small, with something I mentioned in my Getting Ready post. Notice how the groomsmen aren't wearing suspenders? Well they were supposed to be but they couldn't because their pants were all missing inside buttons to attach the suspenders, even though Mens Wearhouse was supposed to have done those alterations. I found this out about one hour before the wedding was supposed to start, but I was SO calm on the wedding day (Brian asked if they drugged me haha) because I was just so darn happy to be getting married, that I just shrugged and said "oh well!" My sister frantically tried to sew the buttons into everyone's pants, but 1 person times 6 buttons times 4 pairs of pants is just way too many buttons to sew in 1 hour, I will also mention that they gave a groomsmen the wrong pants which we luckily realized two days before the wedding, and if you look closely, one of our groomsmen (I won't tell you which one) even has a slightly different tie and I didn't even notice that until Brian mentioned it to me like a week later when I was looking at pictures online! Oh, and if you look, all the groomsmen and the groom must have thought it was appropriate to keep their wallets/phones bulging in their front pockets *face palm*

We specifically used Mens Wearhouse because they are supposed to be (key words- supposed to be) super organized with group numbers and making sure people all over the country receive the same clothes that we painstakingly picked out in the store (our groomsmen were from New York, New Jersey, and Colorado, so we didn't see their clothes until the wedding weekend). But honestly. the groomsmen looked great regardless and no one even knew that they were supposed to be wearing suspenders, so it all turned out fine.

Another hiccup that could have been wayyyy worse than it was the fact that my dress ripped. Yup, the seamstress I chose that had wonderful reviews moved the back panel on my dress over and only sewed it on with one row of stitches (!!), so when my mom and one of my bridesmaids tugged it gently, it tore! Luckily they finagled it so you couldn't even notice when it was all said and done and they didn't even tell me until the dress was all laced up so no one was any the wiser!

Let's talk about the weather that day (I know I've talked about it before but in a bloopers post it needs to be mentioned). Our ceremony was outside and it was COLD! We expected it to be in the 50s, but it was in the low 40s and with the wind whipping around like it does in south-central Pennsylvania, it felt like it was in the 30s. We provided blankets and most people knew it was going to be cold so they wore their winter coats, but man oh man my bridesmaids and I in sleeveless dresses were ice cubes. The wind whipped one of the two doors shut to the chapel where we were standing, so that's why it's shut in many of our pictures. One of our lovely photographers tried to re-open it, but the wind in PA is not to be messed with, it just immediately slammed back shut.

We also don't have as many posed/formal pictures as I would have liked, because it was that cold, and no one could stand out there any longer. My sisters ran away after just a few pics, and eventually even Brian and I had to throw in the towel and go inside, get warm, and have some appetizers. Again though, things could have been MUCH, much worse, as it actually snowed the next day, and it drizzled rain that morning and even 30 minutes before the ceremony started, so we were very fortunate to have dry skies. Our pictures are beautiful and honestly, how many posed pictures do we really need anyways?

Oh, and we definitely have our share of awkward photos. For example, look at my arm in that group photo. Why did I think that was appropriate? It's also hard to know what to do with your hands when all eyes and cameras are on you, so Brian and I have lots of pictures from friends and family like the one above where we are doing weird things with our hands. I love it though, because it's so us.

The beautiful front entrance to our ceremony/reception site- I don't have any pictures of our limo/shuttle

The biggest almost-disaster involved our transportation. You may want to skim past this paragraph if you are soon-to-be married because if I was about to get married soon I don't know if I'd want to know about this particular debacle. Background: a year, yes a year, before the wedding, we went to a local golf resort with Brian's parents to discuss having many of our events there/using many of their services. We blocked off almost all the rooms in the hotel for our guests for that weekend, we booked our rehearsal dinner, Sunday brunch, and Groom's golf outing at their resort, and we scheduled limo and shuttle services through them.

The transportation services were especially important to us, given that almost every single one of our guests was staying at the hotel and everyone needed safe, reliable transportation to, and especially from, the wedding. We mailed the shuttle schedule to everyone with our invitations, wrote it on our wedding website, and met with the event coordinator again three weeks before the wedding to make sure that everything was set up, and we reiterated how important transportation was to us.

The day of the wedding, the guests were all in the lobby at the appropriate times (yay guests), but apparently the shuttle had broken down the NIGHT BEFORE and NO ONE at the resort thought it was necessary to tell me, Brian, or our parents. Nope, Brian's mom found out when she was already at our wedding location and people rolled up in a 12 person VAN, yes a van (with the rude driver's "friend" hogging up 2 seats and eating chips the entire time), and she called to find out what the crap was going on. Why the hotel thought it was appropriate to send a van instead of a 36 person shuttle and not even tell us was beyond me, but they did. His mom was furious and told them they need to keep the limo running too because there was no way that everyone was going to end up getting to the wedding on time if only a van holding 10 guests was running, when we expected a 36 person shuttle.

This all happened unbeknownst to me until about 5 minutes before the ceremony was about the start, and the only reason they told me was because we ended up having to start the wedding 10-15 minutes late because of the whole debacle. It was so ridiculous and was not supposed to happen that way because we specifically planned for transportation.

But there's more. By the end of the night they still hadn't fixed their huge mistake, and it got so late after everyone left that Brian, his parents, and I (my parents took all of our gifts to their home in their car) ended up riding in some nasty, crumb-filled Uber back to the hotel. Our guests got to ride in limos (and that van) and the bride rode in some guys dirty Dodge Durango! Apparently I was super chill about it though and I was still on such a wedding high that I didn't even care, but Brian's parents definitely got their money back for the whole fiasco!!

All in all, our wedding turned out wonderfully and was so much fun (see Getting Ready, Ceremony, Reception Part 1, Reception Part 2), and no one even noticed any of these mostly minor things! I hope I didn't scare any brides-to-be, I was actually trying to make a point that even if bloopers happen, which they will no matter how organized you are, at the end of the day, you're still married and you will remember the day as the best day ever and want to do it all again, EXACTLY THE SAME, debacles and all, I promise!!
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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Recent Books

It's time to review the books I've read in the past month, get excited! Actually, the first two books are ones I read in November and completely forgot to review last month, so yea.

4.5 stars

From the author's website:

When Jacqueline follows her longtime boyfriend to the college of his choice, the last thing she expects is a breakup two months into sophomore year. After two weeks in shock, she wakes up to her new reality: she's single, attending a state university instead of a music conservatory, ignored by her former circle of friends, and failing a class for the first time in her life.

Leaving a party alone, Jacqueline is assaulted by her ex's frat brother. Rescued by a stranger who seems to be in the right place at the right time, she wants nothing more than to forget the attack and that night--but her savior, Lucas, sits on the back row of her econ class, sketching in a notebook and staring at her. Her friends nominate him to be the perfect rebound.

When her attacker turns stalker, Jacqueline has a choice: crumple in defeat or learn to fight back. Lucas remains protective, but he's hiding secrets of his own. Suddenly appearances are everything, and knowing who to trust is anything but easy.

What I thought: **See below, I'm going to review this book and the next one together 

3.5 stars

From the author's website

As a child, Landon Lucas Maxfield believed his life was perfect and looked forward to a future filled with promise - until tragedy tore his family apart and made him doubt everything he ever believed.

All he wanted was to leave the past behind. When he met Jacqueline Wallace, his desire to be everything she needed came so easy...

As easy as it could be for a man who learned that the soul is breakable and that everything you hope for could be ripped away in a heartbeat.

What I thought: Ok so these two books, Easy, and Breakable, went together in that Easy is from Jacqueline's point of view, and Breakable tells Landon/Lucas's whole life story from his point of view, including overlapping the story from Easy. They are standalone books, but I definitely recommend reading Easy. It was a page-turner for sure, and I really enjoyed it. I liked how Jacqueline's best friend stuck by her side, because oftentimes in these types of books the best friend craps out and the girl is only left with the guy as her savior and only friend. It was a nice change to see a great friend relationship. I also like that Jacqueline and her best friend took self-defense classes so Jacqueline wasn't acting helpless like a lot of love stories make the girl out to be. Now, as to Breakable, you can take it or leave it. If you are more interested in finding out more about Landon/Lucas after you read Easy, then I'd say yep, read it. It was nice to know his background and stuff, but I think it dragged on a little longer than necessary. I still enjoyed it, though. Apparently there is a third book about Landon/Lucas's friend from home, but I really wasn't a huge fan of that friend and I have no interest in reading about him and his love story. 

Nancy Thayer's Nantucket Christmas
4 stars

From the author's website:

Holidays on this Massachusetts island are nothing short of magical, and the season’s wonderful traditions are much loved by Nicole Somerset, new to Nantucket and recently married to a handsome former attorney. Their home is already full of enticing scents of pine, baking spices, and homemade pie.

But the warm, festive mood is soon tempered by Nicole’s chilly stepdaughter, Kennedy, who arrives without a hint of holiday spirit. Determined to keep her stepmother at arm’s length—or, better yet, out of the picture altogether—Kennedy schemes to sabotage Nicole’s holiday preparations. Nicole, however, is not about to let anyone or anything tarnish her first Christmas with her new husband.

Nancy Thayer’s wonderful tale reminds us that this is the season of miracles. Before the gifts are unwrapped, surprise visitors appear, and holiday joy comes to all, both naughty and nice.

What I thought: This book was pretty cute. I actually liked An Island Christmas better (read my review here) because I liked the characters much more. I really liked Nicole and Maddox, but Kennedy and Katya were such awful people and I hated reading from Kennedy's point of view- she was so whiny and evil! The end of the story did redeem those characters somewhat, but I just couldn't get over how mean they were; I almost felt like it wasn't realistic. What was also weird/unrealistic were the chapters with the point of view of a dog. Yes, a dog that thought like a human. Strange, but I'd still recommend the book, it was a sweet, quick read.

Mr. MiracleBonus2
2 stars

From the author's website:

When guardian angel Harry Mills arrives on Earth for the first time, he’s got a lot to learn about life as a human. But this miracle worker-in-training ignores the advice of his seasoned heavenly mentor, Celeste, to eagerly take on his first assignment—helping a young woman named Addie find the confidence to change her life. Now, after her father’s sudden passing, Addie is living with her mom Sharon, filled with regret and uncertainty while attempting to finish her degree all while avoiding her childhood nemesis and neighbor, Erich. Enter Harry, posing as her fumbling, well-meaning new English teacher who takes on the task of guiding her to see the wonderful things she can’t see in herself. With a deadline of Christmas day to change Addie’s perspective, or else say goodbye to his own Earthly existence, Harry is clueless but endearing in his effort to make Addie open up to a life full of promise—and even love—while learning a few life lessons of his own along the way.

What I thought: I actually didn't realize this was a Hallmark movie! Shocking, I know, because I kind of consider myself the TV movie queen. In fact, in law school, a professor used to call me Lifetime Movie Girl, I guess because I liked to give cases a dramatic flair when I talked about them (cringe), haha. Anyways, about the book. Meh. This book had no character development whatsoever, it ended abruptly, and it seemed to introduce side-stories that it never resolved or were delved into deeper. Pretty disappointing, Maybe the movie is better?

4 stars

From the author's website:

Colin Hancock is giving his second chance his best shot.  With a history of violence and bad decisions behind him and the threat of prison dogging his every step, he's determined to walk a straight line.  To Colin, that means applying himself single-mindedly toward his teaching degree and avoiding everything that proved destructive in his earlier life.  Reminding himself daily of his hard-earned lessons, the last thing he is looking for is a serious relationship.

Maria Sanchez, the hardworking daughter of Mexican immigrants, is the picture of conventional success: with a degree from Duke Law School and a job at a prestigious firm in Wilmington, she is a dark-haired beauty with a seemingly flawless professional track record.  And yet Maria has a traumatic history of her own, one that compelled her to return to her home town and left her questioning so much of what she once believed.

What I thought: I was kind of wary of this book because even though I love Nicholas Sparks, it seems his latest few books have been written with movie scripts in mind, and movies are obviously never as in-depth nor is the character development as detailed as in the books. This book was really good though. The plot doesn't sound all that interesting, but it actually was! It was fast-paced, kept me turning the pages, and the only reason I took away a star is because I figured "it" out very early on, and I love being surprised!

5 stars

From the publisher's website:

Dana Catrell is shocked when her neighbor Celia is brutally murdered. To Dana’s horror, she was the last person to see Celia alive. Suffering from mania, the result of her bipolar disorder, she has troubling holes in her memory, including what happened on the afternoon of Celia’s death.

Her husband’s odd behavior and the probing of Detective Jack Moss create further complications as she searches for answers. The closer she comes to piecing together the shards of her broken memory, the more Dana falls apart. Is there a murderer lurking inside her . . . or is there one out there in the shadows of reality, waiting to strike again?

A story of marriage, murder, and madness, The Pocket Wife explores the world through the foggy lens of a woman on the edge.

What I thought: This is a must-read! Such a great read and the author did such a great job with Dana's chapters as she slipped further and further into mania; it felt very realistic. I was totally surprised by the ending too, I didn't see it coming and I love that!! Definitely recommend.

final for PB page
5 stars 

From the author's website:

She sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can’t get the girl out of her head…

Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a nonprofit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi returns home one day with a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Disheveled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal—or worse. But despite her family’s objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home.

Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow’s past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she’s willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated… 

What I thought: This book was great. Yes, it was sad and eye-opening and kind of surprising, but it was so good. I really didn't expect most of the things that happened. Read it!

Handle With Care
4.5 stars

From the author's website:

As the family struggles to make ends meet to cover Willow’s medical expenses, Charlotte thinks she has found an answer. If she files a wrongful birth lawsuit against her ob/gyn for not telling her in advance that her child would be born severely disabled, the monetary payouts might ensure a lifetime of care for Willow. But it means that Charlotte has to get up in a court of law and say in public that she would have terminated the pregnancy if she’d known about the disability in advance – words that her husband can’t abide, that Willow will hear, and that Charlotte cannot reconcile. And the ob/gyn she’s suing isn’t just her physician – it’s her best friend.

Handle With Care explores the knotty tangle of medical ethics and personal morality. When faced with the reality of a fetus who will be disabled, at which point should an OB counsel termination? Should a parent have the right to make that choice? How disabled is TOO disabled? And as a parent, how far would you go to take care of someone you love? Would you alienate the rest of your family? Would you be willing to lie to your friends, to your spouse, to a court? And perhaps most difficult of all – would you admit to yourself that you might not actually be lying?

What I thought: I have always loved Jodi Picoult's books. There isn't one I haven't read, and this one was no exception. I read it in 2009 when it first came out, but I felt like reading it again when my mom told me about a person she met whose daughter had osteogenesis imperfecta. Almost every Jodi Picoult book I can think of tells the story from different character's perspective, but this book has an interesting format, in that all of the characters are using the second person narrative, as if they are speaking to the main character, 5 year old Willow. This is one of the saddest books I have ever read (even the author thinks it's the saddest book she's written), but don't let that deter you from reading it. It definitely tears at your heart strings and really makes you wonder what you'd do and how you'd feel in each of the character's positions. I don't like Sean much at all, but the reason I took off .5 stars is because I just can't get over the ending. I know why the author does what she does with her endings most of the time, but that doesn't mean I have to like it! 

Life According to Steph

What books have you enjoyed lately?

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